4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 medium onion, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 medium carrot, minced
1 small stalk celery, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups (one 12-ounce bottle) light-colored ale
1 cup chicken stock
2½ cups half-and-half
1 bay leaf
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dry sherry
12 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1. Fry the bacon in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
2. Add the onion and shallot to the pot containing the bacon drippings and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the potato, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring to coat the vegetables, until the mixture begins to brown on the bottom of the pot, about 2 minutes.
3. Gradually whisk in the ale, chicken stock, and half-and-half. Add the bay leaf and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes.
4. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the cayenne and sherry and allow to cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the cheese and thyme until the cheese melts. Stir in the fried bacon, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.